Facts Matter: Don't reverse medical masks, despite social media claims

Updated 4/11/2020 4:27 PM

False information making the rounds on social media instructs people to wear a medical mask with the colored side out if the wearer is sick, in order to not spread germs, and, if healthy, with the white side out to prevent germs from getting in.

But medical officials say the colored side should always go on the outside, regardless if the wearer is sick or healthy, <URL destination="https://apnews.com/afs:Content:8721490082?emci=9b614f2a-6378-ea11-a94c-00155d03b1e8&emdi=ff35fda2-6a78-ea11-a94c-00155d03b1e8&ceid=75">according to The Associated Press.


</URL>"It has the blue color on the outside because it is waterproof and then you have white on the inside because it is absorbent. So, if I cough, it absorbs it," Dr. Seto Wing Hong, co-director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, said in a YouTube video.

The false information shared in one Twitter post received 80,000 likes, the AP said.

Poem from March, not 1869

A poem circulating on Facebook, purporting to be written in 1869 and reprinted in 1918 during the Spanish flu outbreak, relates to the coronavirus situation today.

"And people stayed at home, and read books, and listened, and they rested, and did exercises, and made art and played."

Those words by retired Wisconsin teacher and chaplain Catherine M. O'Meara were written about the current pandemic and posted to her blog last month, according to PolitiFact.com.

A Facebook user, claiming the poem was from 1869, writes "History repeats itself," while comments to the post include, "Just like now," and "They did all of this through their tragedy without the internet."

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The posts have been flagged by Facebook as false news and misinformation, PolitiFact said.

O'Meara, in an interview with O, The Oprah Magazine, said she was anxious about the pandemic and about friends who work in health care.

"There was nothing I could do," she told O. "I couldn't help my friends. I was very worried about them. My husband said: 'Write. Just write.'"

After she wrote the poem, O'Meara shared it on Facebook.

"I usually don't get a lot of response," she said. "But this found its niche."

U.S. wasn't early or slow on Chinese travel ban

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. instituted travel restrictions on China that went into effect Feb. 2.

President Donald Trump said on April 1 he imposed the restrictions "far earlier than anyone would have thought and way ahead of anybody else."


Former vice president and presidential candidate Joe Biden characterized it differently on April 5, saying the U.S. restrictions "started off awfully slow," and noting 45 countries had banned travel from China "before the president moved."

Forty-six countries had implemented limitations ahead of the U.S. announcement on Jan. 31 and 12 other nations began restrictions on Feb. 2, Samantha Kiernan, a research associate on global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations, told FactCheck.org.

"What this data shows is that the United States was neither behind nor ahead of the curve in terms of imposing travel restrictions against China," said Kiernan, co-creator of the council's ThinkGlobalHealth, which tracks the recent travel restrictions on China.

"To be fair, the United States was one of the first Western countries to impose any kind of formal travel restriction against China," Kiernan said.

No Google Doodle for any religious holiday

Social media users have complained that search-engine Google doesn't acknowledge the Christian celebration of Easter with its Google Doodles.

The doodles are different decorations accompanying the Google name used to reflect various occasions.

One Twitter user falsely claimed Google did a doodle for the Muslim festival of Ramadan but not for Easter. "I think we see where Google stands," the user said.

But Google doesn't create doodles for Easter, Ramadan or any other religious holidays, according to Snopes.com.

"We don't have doodles for religious holidays, in line with our current doodle guidelines, the company told Fox News in a 2018 story headlined, "Google snubbed Easter with no doodle for 18th year in a row, Christians say."

Google said doodles appear for "nonreligious celebrations that have grown out of religious holidays, such as Valentine's Day, Holi's Festival of Colors, Tu B'Av and the December holiday period, but we don't include religious imagery or symbolism as part of these."

The doodle for Ramadan a Twitter user put in the post was not created by Google, Snopes said. It was from a 2010 social media campaign in an effort to get Google to use the graphic during Ramadan.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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